No-kidding red lines: US response may be bluster, but Israel's won't be
-Frank J. Gaffney Jr
Don't do it." That is the message American officials, from President Obama on down, are delivering to their Israeli counterparts in the hope of dissuading the Jewish state from taking a fateful step: attacking Iran to prevent the mullahs' imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons.
This week, the nation's top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E. Dempsey, will visit Israel to convey the same message in person. [T]he general will deliver an insistent warning that Israel must give sanctions more time to work and refrain from acting unilaterally.
Such warnings have become shriller as evidence accumulates that Israel is getting ready to move beyond what is widely believed to be a series of successful - but insufficient - covert actions against the Iranian nuclear program, missile forces and associated personnel.
Some U.S. officials reportedly think the Israelis are just posturing. As one put it, they are playing out a "hold me back" gambit - perhaps hoping the Americans will do the job themselves or at least hoping to be rewarded for their restraint.
Others point, however, to evidence that the Israelis are concealing key military movements from our intelligence assets as an indicator that they are going for it and want to keep us from interfering. At a minimum, Jerusalem would have to worry that an American administration that is holding secret negotiations with Tehran in Turkey at the level of Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns would seek to curry favor with the mullahs by compromising any information it obtains about Israel's intentions.
The difference between the American and Israeli red lines is that the Israelis actually may take seriously the breaching of theirs. Presumably, that would be because the government of Israel has drawn them so as to define existential threats to the state, not simply as a matter of rhetorical posturing intended mostly for domestic political consumption.
The likelihood for such action can only have grown as a result of the contempt with which Mr. Obama has treated Israel, our most important regional ally. Dissing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is one thing. Allowing our own red lines to be flouted with impunity signals that Israel is on its own and must proceed accordingly.
If we are going to stop the nightmare of a messianic regime armed with nuclear missiles, somebody had better do it soon - and with something more effective than sanctions. America should take the lead. However, if the Obama administration won't, it should get out of the Israelis' way.
[Jewish World Review]